A Matter of Trust: Saving Advertising from Itself

Kristi VandenBosch23 October 2019

I met an entrepreneur this week who started a company based on Blockchain. After we got past the jokes about cryptocurrency, Winklevii, and tulip mania, we talked about the challenges involved with normalizing emerging technologies. It took time for organizations to wrap their collective heads around computing, storage, and services living in a nebulous “cloud,” but people eventually got it. It’s normal now. Investment in distributed computing and permanent ledgers – the power of Blockchain – will take a similar amount of education, persuasion, and demonstration.

How was he using Blockchain? To solve the issue of digital ad fraud.

They had developed technology to isolate and eliminate waste and fraud, so advertisers could know if they’re actually getting what they paid for.

I learned a lot about ways advertisers are cheated that afternoon. Not just click-fraud, but the dozens of other forms of waste and measurement discrepancies that happen all up-and-down the “value” chain of digital ad buying, selling, serving, and reporting. And while marveling at how his model used Blockchain and brilliant data analytics to validate each step in the process, it triggered that nagging voice in the back of my head.

When did we get so... dishonest?

Our industry is no longer trusted by our clients. We – yeah, I know, “Not All We” – have obfuscated and misdirected, overcharged and underdelivered, relied on opacity and complexity to mask frankly deceptive behavior. When we (yes, *all* we) rant at the current state of advertising – from the rise of clients insourcing our services, to the use of technology to augment creativity – do we realize we did this to ourselves?

It started with the financial model: the FTE as a unit of value. We began to sell inefficiency. The only path to growth was through more people, and the only way to get more people was to convince a client their business required more people. Not better technology, or better ideas, or better results in the marketplace – just more… people. We stopped being paid for the value of our thinking – we got paid by the ton.

Then we split the creative agencies from their media partners. We assured our clients that tremendous cost savings and strategic advantage would be gained by a roll-up of the media capabilities of dozens of individual agencies. Then we turned more and more of the ad volume over to programmatic buying and other forms of algorithmic decision-making. Again, we stopped being paid for the value of our advice – we got paid by the click.

Then came the emergence of the platform as enabler. Major digital ad distributors made the con palatable. And we, unable to sell any more people, decided we could live with that. How else can we grow revenue? And heck, once upon a time the commission model of media buying was good enough – is this really that different? Just a different method of compensation, a different path to revenue growth – we got paid by the arbitrage.

As an industry, are we deserving of trust?

I was reminded of David Smith, the founder of media agency MediaSmith, who pulled out of the 4As over what he perceived as a toothless “transparency guarantee” to which member agencies would be required to sign on. He didn’t believe it was sufficient, and subsequently drafted a “Client Bill of Rights.” It was a brave act, and it made life difficult for him. But it was the profoundly correct thing to do.

Right #7 of David’s Client Bill of Rights, and I paraphrase slightly: Our clients have the right to expect us to act in their best interest.

The failings of our industry won’t be solved by Blockchain (although apparently some of them will), but rather, by re-earning trust. I believe clients want our industry to thrive, and their agencies to be profitable – and that we're not the only ones who miss the partnership and shared successes we created together. When we demonstrate candor and transparency in our cost structure and business practices – in addition to the better ideas, brilliant creative execution, and insightful strategies on which we built an entire industry – we will. Until then, we can rage over the slow-motion implosion of the agency business. But we know in our hearts why it’s happening.

(Oh: and that Blockchain-based start-up that’s going to fix ad fraud: it’s called Lucidity Check them out, and tell your clients that this is how you’ll handle the oversight of digital ad-buying in the future. It’ll be a good start.)

Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Clients, Ad Agencies, Holding Companies, and Recession

Kristi VandenBosch06 October 2019

I had lunch with a friend, an ad-industry journalist whose preferred mode of catching up is a rapid-fire AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) session. So we shoot a lot of questions back and forth.

He stopped me in the middle of some long speech about the State of Advertising, to ask one: Did I just say the holding company model would cease to exist?

Kinda. Although I tend to exaggerate for effect.

We have witnessed, over the last five years, a virtual sea-change in the advertising industry. The collapsing of world-class agency brands into newer, different, consolidated things. The acquisition of the few remaining advertising-adjacent businesses generating enough revenue to matter. And always, the headache of integration: the bigger they are (why hello, Sapient and Epsilon) the harder they are to fit into the network.

The holding companies shifted from “a portfolio of expert companies to serve you,” to “one agency brand that does pretty much everything, pretty well.”

And we come full circle, again.

Meanwhile, I had a call with one of the big management consulting firms, a team based in Europe. They asked the same question, a different way: What will agency holding companies look like, in the future? (Yes, you know why they're asking.)

Same week, I meet with the head of one of the best creative shops in the country. We asked each other: What the hell happens next?

I have a theory. It’s technically less about the holding companies, and more about what… the hell… happens next.

We face a high probability of sliding into another recession. Remember what happened in 2009? Clients cut budgets. But agencies adjusted; the cuts tended to hit the big line-items like media, so we made different stuff and did our best to keep people employed. Clients didn’t have many alternatives, short of stopping marketing completely, and they weren’t going to do that.

But this time, there are options.

  1. They have their own channels. Their websites, their social feeds, their Amazon pages, their Google search results, their mobile apps. Email, text, chatbots, voice tasks. PR, influencers, peer-to-peer, events. Brands can speak to their consumers without paid media – perhaps not as many, or as well, but our clients have a conduit to address people in ways that didn’t exist in the last recession. Which means decisions about media and agency budgets will be held in the context of “What else can we do?” The answer won’t be “Turn off marketing;” it’ll be “Invest in properties we control.”
  2. They have technology and first-party data. If your client hasn’t moved their ad tech inside, they will. Brands are woke to the value of their customer data, and are using it in entirely new ways. They can target precisely in channels they own, as well as those they buy, with more effective cadence and messaging. They have intelligence platforms that allow instant feedback on content performance. They can publish to their own media from inside their own building. They can directly invest against business outcomes.
  3. They have people. Content creators are in our clients’ buildings, and they weren’t there before. Now there are Creative Directors inside. Content studios and producers, photographers and videographers and editors. Motion designers. Plain old designers. Production artists. They’re going to get stuff made.

Clients will get creative this time around. They are enabled.

The holding company of the future will have invested in enablement companies. They will lean into this shift to client-owned channels. They will provide technology to help their clients be “better, faster, and cheaper.” (Note: among these companies, Simon Martin said it first. Credit where due.) Whether that means moving the ad tech stack in-house and teaching the clients to use it, like MightyHive, or building them a full-fledged agency inside, like Oliver.

The “holding companies” of the future are going to look a lot like You & Mr. Jones, and S4 Capital. A portfolio of technology brands, with enabling businesses around them. Enabling clients to do more with less.

And they’ve got a head-start.

"Welcome. Now Please Leave."​ Preparing People for the Internal Agency.

Kristi VandenBosch16 September 2019

Turns out the rumored death of the internal agency model was premature. Again.

Which is not to say they can’t be killed.

Organizations approach in-housing with the best of intentions. But the fact is, internal agencies can (and do) fail. The reasons why are as diverse as the companies themselves – from benign neglect to outright assassination – but there are a number of things you can do at the onset to increase the likelihood that your investment works.

Communicate the Outcome, Not the Idea. In-housing is a business strategy, like changing suppliers, divesting a business unit, or building a DTC practice. The organization needs to know why it’s important. Specifically. With numbers and stuff. This is an outcome to which you’ve committed, not a trend you're following, or an idea you're exploring. Be explicit in explaining your decisions, objectives, and importantly: expectations for the roles that others will play in its successful execution. Make sure your in-housing strategy is accountable to the company – and vice-versa.

Know Who Will Be Impacted, and How. The fact is, there will be natural enemies of your internal agency. They mostly don’t mean to be, it just… happens. Some people’s roles change in ways they didn’t anticipate, and frankly, aren’t all that crazy about. Some find their jobs becoming more difficult. Some feel marginalized. Some just really liked having an external agency; agencies are fun, creative, smart, and share their Yankees tickets. Before you build inside, map the current client-agency relationships – at every level – and ask the questions for each agency-facing person: How will this affect them? What is their response to the change likely to be? What are we going to do about it?

Create a Structured, Ongoing Feedback Loop. Okay, let’s have it: what’s not working? Why isn’t it working? What will we do, collectively, to fix it? Every enterprise initiative needs ongoing adjustment, which means a mechanism to surface areas that need attention. You'll need working sessions with a cross-functional team, people both responsible and accountable. Let your organization know you will always be open to feedback on internal agency performance, at any time – but commit to a quarterly meeting with stakeholders, to discuss plans for improvement. Or share a round of kudos for a job well-done. Oh yeah. Which brings me to…

Reward the Wins Publicly. Recognize when people make the internal agency model work. Celebrate collaboration, and outcomes large and small, across every department that has an impact. Merchandise it. Let the entire company know when their colleagues contribute to the success of the strategy that contributes the success of the company. People don’t hear often enough that their work is important and meaningful, and this is a fine time to change that.

So, go on: own your in-housing strategy publicly, proudly, and quantifiably. Balance your unwaveringly commitment with the flexibility you’ll need to course-correct, as you would with any business strategy. Make sure your organization is ready, aligned, and knows what’s at stake. Achieve what you set out to do. Share the responsibility, and the credit – and long-live your internal agency. Looks like you’re here to stay.

Digital Transformation Strategies: UX IRL

Kristi VandenBosch14 June 2019

We are a culture led by digital sherpas, helping us navigate our physical lives. And if we’re reliant on our devices now, imagine a not-very-distant future where pervasive computing informed by AI knows us better, and anticipates our actions and intentions more accurately, than we ourselves can. (Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you Alexa. Don’t even THINK about ordering yourself a physical body from Amazon while I’m at work.)

This ever-growing reliance on technology means that brands need to enable consumers to eliminate real-life friction – not just make online transactions simpler, but make offline experiences better. What is done so brilliantly in user experience design to optimize digital environments is not always delivered in brand interactions in the physical world. Consider a few ways that brands can integrate UX thinking into RL – right now:

Help people find stuff fast.

Retail stores were designed to keep shoppers in the store as long as possible, because data shows that the longer we're in there, the more money we spend. (In case you'd ever wondered why vegetables and bread are at opposite sides of the grocery store.) But more retailers are taking the long view. Rather than try to extract as much money as possible during a single visit, they reason that consumers will be more brand loyal if they have a positive experience at the store.

That means getting in and out as efficiently as possible, with exactly what you need. Innovative retailers, especially those with a massive physical footprint, are developing mobile applications that help consumers find an entire shopping list of items quickly – including reminding them of related products their list suggests they'll need. The objective is to make visits faster, thorough, and ultimately, more satisfying.

Cater to after-hours browsers.

It’s not surprising that many consumers want to check out new cars without the premature attention of a salesperson. Research has shown that while the phone has become a ubiquitous negotiating tool in the showroom, people are also using mobile devices to shop the dealer's lot after closing time. These are serious shoppers trying to navigate a complex process on their own. Imagine a mobile self-guided tour that walks the consumer through a comparison of vehicles in inventory, allowing them to narrow their model of choice without pressure, then capture their preference and make it simple to connect to the salesperson when they’re ready.

Technologies like AR that can enhance a person's experience in a physical space are increasingly finding their way to point-of-sale. From product demonstrations, to ingredient and provenance stories, to product comparisons on- or off-shelf, the self-guided tour is a means of communicating brand values through actions.

All money is mobile.

Starbucks undoubtedly did more for advancing mobile payments than probably any other brand, including PayPal and Apple; mobile payments now account for more than 40 percent of Starbucks’ transactions. The battle for digital tender—from Bitcoin and other blockchain-empowered currency to increasingly ubiquitous ApplePay to Facebook's new digital wallet—means physical retail needs to get comfortable with new means of electronic payment, and fast. (If my local bodega can do it, y'all can.) The checkout process itself is expected to change dramatically in the next three years, and the Amazon Go physical store concept suggests that even cashiers can be eliminated from the experience. From capturing “favorites” and prior purchases, to mobile ordering in advance of a retail visit, to shop in-store and deliver to home, the ability to connect a digital shopping experience to a physical buying experience will be table stakes.

Design for UX IRL

Nearly every real-life brand interaction you have as a consumer could be improved through an intuitive bit of technology intervention. Designing an effective user experience “in real life” means that we take the best of digital UX design and apply those lessons to physical spaces. How do we remove friction? Optimize the path to purchase? A/B test physical experiences to learn what drives satisfaction and transaction? Enable access to deeper information on-demand? We begin to think about human interaction more as a personal-service node in the experience, rather than a traditional (read: interruptive) sales or checkout role.

Our digital experiences need to be pre-populated in physical retailers’ business system and tools, so every shopping experience is as efficient – or immersive – as a consumer wants. The future will belong to the brands that figure out the logistics behind making our lives easier in physical spaces, and put equal attention into designing UX IRL.

In-House Agencies: Managing Change Management

Kristi VandenBosch13 June 2019

It's frankly not all that easy to write the business case for in-housing. The myriad moving pieces contained in your external agency relationships aren't always obvious, nor simple to benchmark. Just contemplating year-over-year changes to scope to accommodate increasingly voracious channels is a Herculean effort. You aren't merely calculating what last year's scope will cost using internal resources, you're projecting the cost of not right-sourcing the expanded body of work that will be required.

But the business case is the theoretical part.

In-housing is a tremendous exercise in change management. You will require new processes, new technologies and tools, and most importantly, new people to accomplish the plan. Other roles in the organization may change profoundly to accommodate the internal agency, depending on its scope.

You're creating a new business inside a business. How you approach change management, once the business case is established, is critical to your fledgling agency's success, and its ability to achieve the objectives set for it. Let's look at three big areas that will need to be addressed:

  1. Process Reengineering: Who Does What (and How) in the Future? This involves the workflow and responsibilities of the organization (and not just those within the agency). It's a tremendous opportunity to streamline how things get done – and likely to be littered with landmines and process gaps. The business-requirements-gathering process requires following different kinds of projects from start to finish, to understand who touches them, their role in the process, where approvals are required, and how the project moves forward. This isn't about technology yet, it's about people. Every step in a work process involves humans who can make it work, or make it break.
  2. Technology Integration: Weird Things We Never Needed Before. The supporting toolset an agency needs can be foreign to an organization that relied heavily on external suppliers to manage workflow. Project management software, time tracking applications, content management systems, DAMs, publishing platforms – all become internal requirements to executing your in-housing plan. System interoperability becomes a success factor. Yes, you're going to need some dedicated IT support.
  3. Talent: Not Just More, But Different Kinds. "Agency people" work in agencies with other agency people. You're now welcoming them inside the thing they've always known as "The Client." Their expectations for a cool workplace, flexible (though often mind-bendingly long) hours, Summer Fridays, dogs in the office, and Thirsty Thursdays have been honed over a long history of agency culture. Creating an environment where they feel welcome and understood isn't easy for many corporation entities. You'll need to consider a space-within-the-space, and accommodate a culture-within-the-culture, for the best talent to join you, and stay.

Change is the act of making something different. And the fact is: many attempts fail. The most important factor in whether the in-house agency will make that difference you projected in the business plan, is how effectively you manage it.

Next Up: Getting Your Organization Aligned to In-Housing.

Digital Transformation Strategies: The Meaning of Meaning

Kristi VandenBosch08 June 2019

What makes a brand worthy? Consequential? Different, special? Understood?

As marketers, we focus significant energy on finding the exact right thing to say, in order to create meaning for consumers. We help brands express their beliefs, in hope of forging a connection, or developing a relationship. We articulate a brand's values, its purpose, its reason for existing. When we're at our best, we create powerful manifestos that capture not just what a brand stands for, but why it deserves a consumer's devotion. (As someone who's been known to cry over beautiful advertising, I'm in awe whenever one of us catches that kind of lightning in a bottle.)

But for all its emotional resonance, it's still a one-dimensional definition of "meaning."

I'm also fascinated by how meaning can be communicated without saying a word; not through what a brand believes, but how it behaves.

A brand's...utility.

The simple, functional, operational usefulness demonstrated through the course of doing business. How friction is removed, how problems are solved. How a brand lives its promise through actions alone. And while it's not always grounded in technology (I'm looking at you, late-night drive-thru windows, you things of genius), a meaningful digital experience doesn't necessarily require an elegant visual language, or the perfect words. The early ugly-but-perfect eBay and Craig's List. The utterly minimalist Google front page. The purity of purpose of Instagram. The wildly-overly-helpful-and-seemingly-endless Amazon product page. Every app in the world that doesn't suck.

Meaning is sometimes best communicated through plain old utility. And the strongest of brands can erode their credibility through an unhelpful experience. Not that I'm thinking about any large multinational in particular BUT SERIOUSLY, I questioned a 20-year banking relationship after an especially egregious episode involving a lousy bunch of disconnected websites, broken APIs, and no less that 14 (I counted, yes I did) transfers during a single help-desk call.

It's often said, "Character is what you do when no one's looking." Meaning is what you create when consumers experience the brand in totality, whether as you intended, or not. And just like character, it's not what you say, as much as what you do.

Digital Transformation Strategies: Platform It

Kristi VandenBosch07 June 2019

From the agency side of the house, it's easy to feel like marketers are speeding past us, investing in the latest tools and technologies that promise to automate, optimize, personalize, customize, and just generally make their consumers happier and more profitable – with a minimal amount of human intervention.

As Avi Dan noted in his recent Forbe's article, the agency's role as steward of the brand, and trusted advisor to our clients, has fallen victim to CMO turnover, cost-cutting, media fragmentation, and yes, ubiquitous technology. In response, media and consulting firms are lining up to propose the latest in-house tech stack, a platform-arms-race to shift more control internally.

But what if creative agencies... joined 'em?

I recently worked with an agency on a Digital Transformation initiative designed to position them for growth, without walking away from what made them special. They created these truly unique, meaningful consumer experiences that changed the way people felt about brands. They consistently out-performed other efforts to drive incremental performance, and cement consumer loyalty.

But on paper, they looked like just another CRM agency.

We started by dissecting where the value was in their offering. Not just the profitability, but the thing that made them irreplaceable. Think about marketing in three layers: there's the plumbing, mostly invisible but utterly necessary. There's the commodity layer, which isn't especially sexy, but requires solid operational expertise. And then there's the magic. The thing an agency does better, or differently, than their peers. The real value.

It's easy to fall into the pricing trap of keeping low-value work in the scope, because that work can typically be done with lower-cost resources, and well, your blended hourly rate now looks so..."competitive." But what if you took out that people-based revenue completely? What if you automated, templated, systematized, and machine-learned those replicable aspects of your offering into a... platform? You build once, license annually, let technology do the heavy lifting, and create a new revenue stream. You focus exclusively on the highest-value people and services – the things that put us back in the CMO's office. Platforming isn't simply automating for cost-cutting's sake, but a means to replace the reliance on low-value, FTE-based revenue. It's an investment strategy that can let agencies focus on what they do best: use their best, most-valuable assets to create business-changing outcomes.

Defining Effectiveness: Measuring the In-House Agency

Kristi VandenBosch03 June 2019

What does "effective" even... mean?

Let's go to the Google box: "Successful in producing a desired or intended result."

There are plenty of possibilities for evaluating the success of your in-house agency. Return on investment. Contribution toward achieving sales goals. Cost savings achieved. Improved brand perception, positive sentiment, or increases in consumer engagement. The quality of the work product. The quantity of the work product. The satisfaction of the clients. The satisfaction of the agency. Employee productivity. Utilization rates. Retention.

How you plan to evaluate the success of your in-house agency should be on the first page of the business plan, right next to your objectives for building one in the first place. Measure what matters to the organization, make sure everyone knows why it matters, and be clear on how it will be tracked.

The ANA conducted a study among its membership on the rise of the in-house agency. This "what matters" issue was captured neatly in two questions. The first: "What has been the primary benefit (of moving in-house)?" In descending order, the biggest benefit was cost efficiency, followed by better knowledge of the brands, speed/nimbleness, institutional knowledge, creative expertise, and greater control. With the exception of cost efficiency, none of these is an especially measurable objective.

Meanwhile, the "What have been your biggest challenges?" question clearly yielded some very quantifiable problems: managing workflow, managing resources, prioritizing projects, delivering great creative, talent recruitment and retention, and expanding capability. Ironically, the "benefits" were likely not actual goals set for the agency, while the "challenges" they were experiencing should have been.

Those challenges are a good place to start when thinking about what actually matters to the company, setting quantifiable effectiveness goals, and methods for measurement:

  • What is our desired productivity? (The optimal number of projects x people)
  • What are our goals for employee utilization? (Time tracking, goals by role)
  • How will we evaluate the creative product? (Consumer research, brand compliance, customer/retailer feedback)
  • What are our objectives for hiring and retaining talent? (Turnover rate, time to hire)
  • What is our roadmap to building capability? (Service expansion, timing, staffing)

The in-house team, like any good agency, needs to understand what its success looks like, as do its colleagues throughout the organization. Effectiveness means "success in producing a desired result;" when there's company-wide clarity on what that desired result actually is, everyone can work to the plan, and the benefits will follow.

Designing an In-House Agency: Building to the "Efficiency"​ Objective

Kristi VandenBosch01 June 2019

The rationale behind launching in-house agency capabilities is typically shorthanded something like this:

"We're going to increase efficiency and effectiveness."

Both objectives require a bit of unpacking. Let’s start with the notion of designing an internal agency to achieve efficiency.

When making the business case for moving work in-house, the typical place to begin is with your external-agency statements of work. But with the continual expansion of channels, and assets required to fill them, last year’s scope is a misleading indicator of what you’ll need this year. The real question is not “How much will we save by reducing our current agency fees?” but rather, “What would it cost to continue to outsource this insane new volume of deliverables?”

This requires some serious requirements-gathering. Your channel SMEs have a pretty good idea of what their annual publishing requirements will be, at least from a rough-orders-of-magnitude perspective. What they don’t always have is visibility into who else in the organization might have similar needs. The website lead, Amazon publisher, and community manager all need packaging shots, ingredient copy, and instructional videos. This is where a key efficiency opportunity comes in: you can view cross-departmental scope holistically, and combine productions accordingly.

Another way to achieve efficiency: put the right work in the right place. Even if you’ve built robust, full-service capability inside, you will almost certainly continue to work with a variety of external suppliers, including agencies, production houses, photographers, and agents. Focus higher-cost resources on the highest-value work, not those aspects that can be handled more efficiently – without sacrificing quality – in-house.

Efficiency isn’t a result of duplicating what you did before, with lower-cost people. It requires collaboration with fewer, better partners – both inside and out – a clear understanding of the sum needs of the organization, and a plan to consolidate, distribute, and synchronize those requirements. And if you read between the lines that "Huh. This is going to be a lot more work for the internal clients," you're getting the picture. Efficiency has a lot of moving parts.

Next up: Defining effectiveness.

Where is All the Talent Going? Meet the New "In-house Creative."

Kristi VandenBosch30 May 2019

One of the primary concerns with building in-house agency capability is whether brands can attract and retain the kind of talent they’ve come to expect from their external agency partners.

Spoiler alert: they can.

Among the most significant shifts agencies have experienced in the past three years is a migration of talent – including creative talent – to alternative venues: digital media companies, the tech giants, consultancies, and yes, to the “client side.” The reasons are as diverse as the people themselves, but let’s look at a few of the major trends underpinning the “move inside.”

  • Agencies are under pressure. From their clients, from their holding companies, from new models of content creation. Their own brands have been merged and merged again, in many cases impacting the reputation, culture, and skills they’ve been known for. Talent, especially young talent, no longer distinguishes one agency brand from another; they’re only as attractive as their current client roster.
  • Big names are moving inside. Truly famous creatives, strategists, producers, and agency leaders are testing the internal waters, joining non-agencies for the first time. And they’re bringing their friends with them. The work they’re producing is, literally, award-winning; their talent (of course) in no way diminished by the change of address, and the skills honed at the best agencies on earth are changing the nature of what “in-house” implies.
  • The labor market is tight again. Talent has options. Lots of them. New models of compensation, a broader range of benefits, work-life balance possibilities: agency competitors are moving quickly to design packages that attract the best talent, and retain it. Many traditional organizations learned the value of this during two dot-com booms, when candidates became scarce, and retention nearly impossible. They’ve adjusted, and this time, they’re ready.
  • The “work inside” is challenging and rewarding. No longer the realm of the “B-team,” these new creative organizations are producing world-class work. Some, like the consultancies, have moved their C-suite strategic relationships downstream, and into opportunities for game-changing execution. The media brands have elevated the content game, and now create engaging assets in not only their own properties’ voices, but those of third-party brands as well. And if you love a category or a brand, an in-house shop can be a playground of possibilities. You have inside access, encouragement, and freedom – really, an obligation – to innovate on behalf of the business. Your fortunes are intertwined, and your best ideas matter more than ever.

As alternates to agencies become real options, yes, the talent base will be stretched. But the definition of stretching is two-fold: this shift of talent to different kinds of creative organizations also holds the promise of shaking up the way we approach the work. It creates a training ground for more nimble solutions, scaling ideas faster, making more things for more media more holistically, being collaborative with a wider range of people – and not at the expense of quality. Talent will return to agencies, inevitably – and bring a whole new skill set with them.

So you want to start an in-house agency?

Kristi VandenBosch26 May 2019

I recently addressed the attendees at the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference in Phoenix, AZ (you'll find the full video of my presentation below).

The weight of this subject is very much on the minds of marketers, and their procurement partners, and the trend leans toward more and more brands building capability in-house. The ANA recently completed a study on in-housing, and the growth is nothing short of staggering. So too are the pressures to show impact quickly. Efficiency and effectiveness goals don't take into account the sheer magnitude of the task: often building a full-fledged ad agency from scratch.

The key is to scale capabilities, not deliver an end-to-end solution on Day One. Focus on what brings the most value to the business. It may not be the sexy stuff; you'll find tremendous value in producing enhanced content for Amazon, assets for your social channels, and low-fidelity tutorial videos for YouTube. Nail this hard-working content first. Boil the ocean later.